04-15-10 - Laptop Part 2

Well I need to hurry up and get something so I decided to just go for the Thinkpad W510. And... Lenovo is completely out of stock on the reasonable screens ( "HD+" at 1600x900 ). Apparently they are indefinitely out of stock; they say "more than 4 weeks" but the reality is they have lost their supplier so they are just fucked.

So I'm looking at Dells. The Dell Latitude E6410 is very similar to the Thinkpad T410 ; Core i5 or i7 duals, nice magnesium case, 14.1" at 1440x900 matte (worse than my current lappy which is 1440x1050 but passable). NVidia 3100M. Proper hard drive options. All around it looks like a very nice general purpose lappy.

Dell Precision M4500 is the "mobile workstation" , equivalent to the Thinkpad W510. It's interesting how Dell and Lenovo seem to have lined up their products as direct competing analogues; there's some economic theory term for that. Anyway, it has options for dual or quad Core i5/i7, NV 1800 or 880 GPU, it can do two hard disks, screen is 15.6" at 1600x900 or 1920x1080 ; seems reasonable for me. One problem is it only has 2 RAM slots, so I'll max out at 8 GB, while the Thinkpad W510 has four. (Correction : no it can't really do two hard disks, it can run a second SSD in a mini slot, that's not as good as the 6500 which can do two real disks).

(the Dell M6500 is the even bigger one, but it doesn't offer a DX11 GPU either so there's really no point in stepping up to it; the best is an ATI FirePro M7740 which is a shitty business certified kind of thing on DX 10.1 ; it does have a proper 17" 16:10 screen in "WUXGA" (1920x1200) and you can get it factory built with RAID 0 2x500 GB 7200 RPM disks which is not bad. )

Dell has some retarded naming going on right now, watch out for that. eg the Latitude 6400 and 6500 are the old model, the xx10 are the new ones. The Dell Precision 4400 , 6400, etc are the old ones, the x500 are the new ones. WTF. Also the "Precision M" series is actually part of the "Latitude E" family and thus is compatible with the "E Series" docking solutions. But the docking changed from the 6400 to the 6410 generation so watch out for that. Yay. All these business Dell lappies do docking, though there are many reports of problems with that. It looks like those problems may be various drivers, but come on Dell, you need to get your shit together.

(BTW you might think the AlienWares would be ever better, but no, not really. The best GPU you can get is an ATI HD 4870 which is DX 10. The screens are glossy and they don't have docking. Boo).

A few niggles to look at :

WiMAX ? So far as I know WiMax is not really rolled out in the US yet, but it is exciting for the future. Since I don't actually use my lappy on the go this is probably not for me. Maybe someday I'll have a WiMax router at home and cancel my cable.

Dual Core at something like 2.4 / 2.6 Ghz or Quad Core at 1.6 / 1.73 Ghz ? I suspect that the dual is actually faster for most current usage, but I'm tempted to go with the quad to give myself a better test environment for my multicore code. It is also nice the way multicore fixes Windows broke ass multi-tasking so that you can actually have 3 apps running and they are all fully responsive.

(BTW all you fucking app developers should not be gobbling so much CPU when your app is out of focus god damnit, especially gobbling CPU for fucking cutesy UI update shit when you are not focus).

128 GB SSD or 500 GB 7200 RPM HD ? SSD is no doubt the win for a thin/light lappy, but for this type of workstation lappy I'm not so sure. There are reports of data loss, performance degradation over time, etc. that are a bit scary for something I hope to run for 5-10 years. The fast random access and not having to worry about defrag is a pretty huge win though. One annoyance is I would have to buy my own SSD third party and reintall Windows.

Small addendum on SSDs : yeah they are the win. Going for a 160 GB Intel X25-M. Make sure you get a "G2" (gen2) as Gen 1 apparently has no TRIM. Also the X25-E is *way* faster, but crazy expensive and only 32 GB. That indicates though that SSD speeds are going to continue to shoot up and prices come down.


Autodidactic Asphyxiation said...

IIRC Sprint's 4G is WiMax, and they plan on having good metro coverage in the near future (like summer), coinciding with some 4g phones. From talking with CM, it sounds like JR might know something about that, so you could probably ask him. Also, they seem to have good/cheap data plans, and let you upgrade every year with new-user discounts if you manage to pay your bills on time.

Re-installing windows might be a feature, since it gets you out of all the preinstalled crapware.

Aaron said...

Quad for sure, no contest.

I betcha the wimax is just a snap-in card thingy ( bluetooth on my latidude (intentional typo) d810 was like that, so you could just add it later if you ever want it (but you won't).

Aaron said...

RE: ssd/hd:

You're gonna reinstall windows the instant you get it anyway, right? Surely you don't want the base dell install...

Does it have a 2nd hd? If not, 120gb is not nearly enough for anything. If you're gonna do ssd, just go get your own that's at least 250 if you've got money to burn, or just start with the HD, and switch to SSD in a few years when the prices come down out of the stratosphere for them.

Gilles said...

+1 vote for quad. You can buy ssd later, if you think long term, you can afford to wait a bit.. I agree 120Gb HDD is small. You want flexibility overall because of the time consideration. (This kills the two slot ram too i guess) Also, you dont know, how the thing is behaving until you use it so safe money is on incremental upgrades again.

cbloom said...

"You can buy ssd later, if you think long term, you can afford to wait a bit"

Yeah but then I would have to transfer my Windows install which is scary.

It does look there will be major SSD jumps in the next year. By Q1 2011 we should have 300 GB drives that are faster, more reliable, and cheaper.

Aaron said...

A fairly thorough E6400 review if you haven't read it already:

cbloom said...

Yeah ; the E6400 is the last gen, but the industrial design is the same as the new one. That's the laptop I bought last year. The physical quality of it use super excellent.

IMO Notebookreview is not keeping up, I use Notebookcheck now.

Aaron said...

A few notes based on the review. Synaptics keypads (this and my D810 have ALPS) are much better than the ALPS. ALPS... dunno why they're used, but they are noticeably less good than Synaptics. I eventually got used to it, but every time I use someone else's touchpad I'm like 'jesus, mine sucks'.

Touchpoint/trackpoint in the keyboard is utterly useless, but on the other hand, you'll never notice it's there (it's not a plus, and not a minus).

Looks like the battery sticks out from the back a LOT.

Aaron said...

Old model review: oh, whoops!
Notebookcheck: Ach! Ze Germans!!! Nice site.

cbloom said...

"Looks like the battery sticks out from the back a LOT."

I think that's cuz of the 9 cell battery instead of the standard 6 cell. Good reason not to get the 9 cell !

Notebookcheck occasionally has some really hillarious translations. Also they do awesome power and noise measurements.

sly-id said...

Also the X25-E is *way* faster, but crazy expensive and only 32 GB. That indicates though that SSD speeds are going to continue to shoot up and prices come down.

No quite. X25E uses SLC memory, which is older/simpler than MLC as it stores bits alone instead of per couple. Much faster (mainly for small files and random access: ideal for system disk), much more costly.

But SLC is nearly dead for the mass market: it keeps being too expensive ; and MLC disks gets closer and closer, but they're still quite behind for small files, which are quite numerous on today's computers unfortunately.

One of the best sources of information about SSD is PCWorld.fr, a French site (content completely unrelated to the us version) - their curves are very informative:
X25E curves: http://www.pcworld.fr/image/zoom/1036761/IntelX25-EIometer05
X25E page: http://www.pcworld.fr/produit/intel-x25-go/434851,434611/

X25M Postville (V2): http://www.pcworld.fr/image/zoom/1077191/Synthese

A "good" OCZ using MLC:

My good-ol' Mtron (SLC):

sly-id said...

Trying again with real links this time:

X25E curves
curves and article

A "good" OCZ using MLC: curves

My good-ol' Mtron (SLC): curves

sly-id said...

Damned, why can't I delete a previous message when using open-id login?

X25E curves
X25E page

X25M Postville (V2): curves and article

A "good" OCZ using MLC: curves

My good-ol' Mtron (SLC): curves

cbloom said...

Those curves seem to agree with what I've gathered elsewhere :

basically they are all plenty fast for reading. The big differences show up in writes.

The SLC seems to be a lot faster for writes. SLC also seems to have much better error rates and lifetimes. Many of the MLC drives are flakey due to firmware not handling the NAND failures well enough.

The other big issue is degradation of performance on used drives, which those curves don't show. Apparently many of the MLC's have a horrible equivalent of fragmentation which doesn't affect read performance much but can really super hose write performance with occasional massive latencies.

cbloom said...

Ah.. I see the articles do include new vs. used charts. Very nice site!

old rants